I remember when my youngest son Benjamin, at eight years old, blurted out, “I think you’re bipolar Mom!” after witnessing my mood swing from ecstatic to torment following a whirlwind eating frenzy. I used to binge daily on cakes, cookies, ice-cream, and baked potato chips but soon after taking my first bite of a “sugary/salty treat,” I fluctuated between a hair-raising, euphoric “sugar high” and a dark, negative wretchedness.

To make matters worse, my weight swelled to 100 pounds over my ideal weight. From the sugar, I experienced depression, anxiety, and irritability only to return back to such sweets to fend off my melancholy, tranquilize my sense of being ill at ease, and lessen my agony—intense physical and mental suffering. I experienced a violent struggle between outbursts of excitement and despair. A vicious cycle indeed! I didn’t realize these quickly metabolized carbohydrates briefly made me feel wonderful but then took me from that deceptive, blissful high to a tumultuous low.

Hi, my name is Lisa—I’m a food junkie! A food junkie thinks about food every waking moment: She is an addict. I was physiologically dependent on simple carbohydrates such as chocolate, pretzels, and cake. I developed a physical dependence from chronic use of these foods, which produced a high tolerance to them. The chemical dependence is related to changes in the addict’s brain chemistry. Those changes involve the “pleasure circuit,” where, because of a sensitivity to these substances, certain neurotransmitters and receptors create pleasurable feelings after being stimulated by simple carbohydrates.

With an abrupt deprivation of cookies and breads, I experienced withdrawal symptoms, including severe headaches and body aches, and I broke out in a cold sweat and was irritable and fatigued. I found comfort in nothing except returning to sweets and starches. And of course Benjamin witnessed these high and low extremes which often can resemble bipolar disorder. I see this often in my practice when I first begin working with a compulsive eater coming in helpless and hopeless and not understanding why they are suffering with their relationship with food.  I assure them recovery is right around the corner and starts with abstaining from the foods that trigger the issue in the first place.

It’s not to say recovery from the obsession with food is an easy process, because it’s not, but what I do know is it’s doable—I’m living proof. My moods no longer swing from ecstatic to torment after a whirlwind eating frenzy because I no longer binge eat on cakes, cookies, ice-cream, and baked potato chips. Today my foods consist of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and low fat dairy and I’m energized—yet calm—no longer do I fluctuate between a hair-raising, euphoric “sugar high” and a dark, negative wretchedness.

What are your experiences? Share in the conversation so readers can learn from you and visa versa.


Photos by: Dr. Lisa Ortigara Crego


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